Travelling as an Introvert

The beautiful and sometimes complex idiosyncrasies of the introverted personality type can be magnified while travelling. The unfamiliar environments, changes in routine and potential crowds that often infiltrate the exploration of foreign lands create specific challenges for introverts. Here are some of the most beneficial strategies that I have utilized to improve my travel experience while honouring my need for calm and keeping my sensitive spirit intact:

  • Allow for sufficient down time

It is so important while travelling as an introvert to not over-plan your time away; by doing so, you will feel exhausted and depleted within a few days. Make a list of the most important things that you would like to do or see, and then allow for flexibility in your schedule to just peacefully stroll, explore and get lost in your own thoughts. It can be tempting, especially if you have a limited amount of time in a destination, to pack in as much as possible but some of the greatest memories I have from my travels are the days where I just wandered at my own pace and stumbled across hidden treasures. This will help you to maintain energy levels from day-to-day.

A slow and peaceful day spent wandering the streets of Rome
  • Travel in the shoulder/off season

In addition to saving you some money, travelling in the off-season can be a dream for an introvert- fewer crowds, less chaos, shorter lines and in many cases a more unique and intimate experience. While summer is often the most tempting time of year to travel, nothing is more off-putting to this introvert than overly crowded tourist attractions mixed with suffocating heat. Autumn has become my preferred season for travel and I highly recommend planning your next trip during this magical and serene time of year.

The beauty of Autumn in Paris
  • Stay at an Airbnb vs. a Hotel

Last year I travelled to Iceland with a friend (and fellow introvert) who prefers using the Airbnb service to hotels. We searched for a whole home or apartment for rent- as opposed to booking rooms in a shared space- with the cozy, minimalist, Nordic aesthetic that we were drawn to. Arriving at our Airbnb, we felt an immediate sense of belonging and sanctuary. We were able to purchase groceries and make some meals at ‘home’ after a day of sightseeing or to linger over breakfast with no time constraints before venturing out. We could retreat to our own separate bedrooms every night and have ample quiet, peaceful time to process our experiences. In addition- our local host provided a wealth of insider knowledge and recommendations for exploration in our destination.

Our cozy home in the heart of Reykjavik
  • Travel solo

Given the amount of alone time I need to recharge, I have learned to genuinely love and enjoy my own company and travelling alone as an introvert can be incredibly liberating. Need an early night? Go for it. Want to ditch that planned museum visit and find a restful spot to people-watch all afternoon? Done. Nothing is more freeing than having every day to yourself to follow your unique rhythm, without having to worry or stress about the desires of others or how your wants and decisions may affect them. The first solo trip I ever took felt like a languid dream compared to the large group tour through Europe I had previously been on.

Taking in the charming skyline of Prague on a solo venture
  • Spend more time in one location if possible

The discomfort that is unearthed from the unfamiliarity of foreign countries can become magnified for an introvert as we are often very married to our routines and home environments. I have found that the more time I spend in one specific destination the more comfortable I feel and I begin to establish a regimen of my own that allows me to open myself up to a new city or country in a way that is not possible if I am constantly on the move.

Feeling right at home on the banks of the Seine
  • Create intimate opportunities for connection

Just because you are an introvert, does not mean that you don’t want to interact and connect with others while travelling. The important consideration is to ensure that opportunities for socialization are specific to your unique interests and in small groups. While in Paris solo, I attended several cooking classes which allowed me to connect with fellow travellers in an intimate environment while bonding over a shared interest. Themed walking tours are also a great option and spending a little bit extra for tours that are designated as ‘small-group’ is absolutely well worth it. I found that balancing these types of activities with ample solo exploration created the perfect travel experience.

The heavenly (although a bit misshapen) outcome of a baking class at La Cuisine Paris

A French connection

Golden sunset view from the top of Notre-Dame

As I strolled along the Rue Rambuteau on my way back to my rented apartment, I searched for a patisserie (a French bakery specializing in baked goods and sweets) to indulge my craving for a Parisian dessert. My obsession with all things sweet had exploded since arriving in the French capital- a city-wide buffet of hand-crafted, detailed and high-quality confections mine for the taking. Having experienced a significant struggle trying to adapt and find a way to blend in in this glamorous city, a ritual had begun to take shape which gave me great comfort- my daily ‘pastry runs’ as I called them. My only hang-up was my extremely modest grasp of the French language, a barrier that weighed heavily during my explorations.

A typical pastry run 😍

Up ahead on my right, I saw a gleaming sign with the words Pain de Sucre and decided to stop. My French may be elementary, but I know the word ‘sucre’ was exactly what I was looking for. I entered the shop tentatively, as this moment of stepping away from the veiled anonymity of the bustling street and into the intimate specialty shops of Paris always gave me a pang of anxiety. There is a custom in France of promptly greeting the employees of a store when you enter and they will greet you back as a measure of acknowledgement and respect- it is seen as quite rude if you miss this step. However, this set me on edge knowing that my language skills would be put to the test momentarily. Behind the counter at Pain de Sucre, a clean-shaven gentleman asked me in rapid-fire French for my order. I felt the heat rise in my cheeks as I awkwardly gestured to the gleaming displays to indicate that I still needed to look around. I was instantly exposed as a tourist and felt a cold divide between us. I pointed to a lemon tart which he swiftly packaged in a specialty box for me to take home (‘a emporter’). After having to ask him to repeat the amount I owed more than once, he switched to slow, heavily-accented English and my mortification was complete.

Pain de Sucre (photo credit: parispatisseries.com)

On subsequent days, I always passed by Pain de Sucre on my way home and saw the same employee working inside. I felt an unavoidable urge to redeem myself in his eyes. I began practicing my French with more zest in the evenings, mastering certain phrases that were likely to be used in the bakery realm. When I entered Pain de Sucre a second time, my confidence had improved and I smiled and greeted the same shop worker. He did not appear to recognize me whatsoever. Our interaction proceeded much like the first, although I was able to anticipate the questions and had my answers, in still-shaky French, better prepared. I left still feeling as though I was an intruder on Parisian territory and would never belong.

Another favourite stop: La Pâtisserie des Rêves or”The Bakery of Dreams” 💕

Eventually, with subsequent visits, I started to notice a shift in our dynamic. On one occasion there was an unmistakable a flicker of recognition in the shop employee’s face and a level of warmth in his greeting that did not exist initially; I felt thrilled and triumphant as I walked out the door with my selection of macarons. On another occasion he welcomed me back and asked, in French that I could now understand, about my visit to Paris. He smiled at me and proceeded to recommend a new pastry that I had yet to try. I left the shop that day feeling content and accomplished, a joyful energy in my step. I will always remember that moment of breaking through the cultural divide; that first feeling of connection and acceptance taking place at a pastry shop on Rue Rambuteau as a clean-shaven gentleman smiled at me and wished me a good day (bonne journée) before I hurried home with my packaged treat.

An Umbrian Retreat

Perched high on a lush hilltop near the medieval town of Gubbio in Umbria, Italy, exists a haven the likes of which cannot be replicated. Arriving at the Borgo di Carpiano- the name rolling off the tongue with a sense of romanticism that embodies the Italian language- is like stepping back in time. This feeling is evident in every detail, from the remoteness of the location to the ancient wooden wagon displayed out front of the main house.

Arriving at Borgo di Carpiano
Dreamy outdoor dining area

Upon arrival at the Borgo, you are immediately encouraged to sink into a comfy outdoor lounge area with a refreshing drink in hand to take in the expansive view of olive trees and clear skies, with streaks of sunshine casting a patterned glow over your limbs. The peaceful silence will rest both soft and heavy on your shoulders, encouraging a deep state of needed relaxation. The familiar and welcome sound of gravel crunching underfoot will narrate your continued exploration of the storied grounds, while admiring the palette of neutral and terracotta tones that contrast with the viridescent green of the rolling hills. In the evening, the horizon takes on a soft lilac hue within which you will see the glowing moon rise, instilling a sense of the inspired and ancient soul of the Borgo.

That Italian colour palette 💕
Full moon rising beyond the hills

Marilisa and Riccardo Parisi are the proud owners and hosts of this Italian villa, affectionately referred to as the Borgo for short- an Italian term for a small village or hamlet. This married couple became enamoured with the history of the previously abandoned property, which dates back to the tenth century; they spent years lovingly restoring it to the enchanting retreat it is today. Along with their wonderful staff, Marilisa and Riccardo are passionately devoted to providing a true taste of quintessential Italian hospitality. Their rich and utterly charming accents, warm smiles and genuine nature feel like a warm embrace as you are welcomed into the paradise they have created.

Gorgeous breakfast enjoyed outside
Pool area with heavenly view

Their vision come to life, one can only imagine the level of dedication and passion of Marilisa and Riccardo when they decided to restore this bygone hamlet, all the while honouring the original architecture. For those lucky enough to experience their warm reception and congeniality you can only express deep appreciation and awe, with the hope that one day you will return. As a small parting gift, you are humbly provided a small tin of homemade olive oil, stamped with the logo of the Borgo. Tuck it safely away in your suitcase and anticipate the joy of being transported back to this Umbrian retreat each time you open the cap and breathe in the scent of faring la bella vita.

Rolling hills of Umbria

5 inspiring aspects of visiting Iceland in the winter

The Blue Lagoon

While in Iceland during the winter season, I experienced for the first time the visceral sensation of being somewhere extraordinarily unique in the world. Everything was so new, so unexpected and so special that the entire trip is engraved in my memory as one of the most exhilarating adventures I have every embarked on. Here are 5 inspiring revelations I had from visiting Iceland in the winter:

  • The already otherworldly landscapes emanate even more magic

With the sun never rising too high in the sky during the winter months, the sunrises and sunsets I witnessed lasted for hours and created the kind of bewitching light that photographers lust after. The beauty of the pristine countryside was made all the more magical by the fact that the time in which to view it was fleeting. Dreamy, snow-covered fields simply blurred into the distant hazy ocean; it was almost impossible at times to differentiate the pure white of the ground from the snowy sky.

Kerid crater
Misty ocean in the distance
  • The weather, however unpredictable, elevated my experience

Despite warnings about travelling to this northern country in moody February, I was not deterred and felt confident that as a Canadian, I could handle anything it would throw at me! I did survive a storm or two but remember only the awe of seeing misty clouds rolling in and out of the harbour on a whim, the whipping winds awakening all of my senses and the joy of feeling unseasonably warm sunshine filling my pores for a brief moment. It was thrilling to be at mercy of the constant change and flow.

View over Reykjavik
Storm rolling in
  • The colour palette of the country is a privilege to witness

Winter in Iceland is composed of stunning colour contrasts. Jet-black volcanic rock surrounded by the purest untouched snow was a vision to behold. I encountered every shade of blue imaginable- one vista in particular encapsulated a visual layer cake of pearly white snow, azure lakes and sky topped with pristine clouds.

Thingvellir National Park
Reykjavik harbour
  • My sense of place in the world was magnified

It was truly an indescribable feeling being so far north during the season of its essence. While visiting a black sand beach on the south coast, our guide explained that if I was to head out into the ocean due south from our location, I would not hit land again until I reached Antarctica. I found this to be simply awe-inspiring and it created an acute awareness of where I was on Earth.

Reynisfjara black sand beach
Solheimajokull glacier
  • The power of Mother Nature knows no bounds

To witness the geographical marvels and cosmic performances of Iceland in the winter chill is to feel alive. Everything from crags in the earth, the deafening bellow of half-frozen waterfalls, the palpable building tension of geysers and vast stretches of uninhabited land, to the mystique of being surrounded by snow covered mountains in the dark is a true feast for the senses. I felt a deep respect for our planet during my time here. A journey to this part of the world in the off-season is decidedly incomparable.

Skogafoss waterfall
Beautiful northern lights